From Data to Knowledge Objects, Ontological Considerations With Inputs From the Public Health Domain

The notion of knowledge object is central to the modern company due to the increasing awareness of the need of properly managing knowledge. Still, there is no clear idea on how to understand this notion, let alone characterize it. Information technology (IT) is of little help on this issue. It has been focussing almost exclusively toward the regulation of data types, data flows and their management; the complex interaction between information and the human agents, one of the characteristics of knowledge, is unfortunately disregarded. If we aim to develop systems for intellectual capital and knowledge management, we need to study notions like knowledge object, knowledge transfer and knowledge measurement. Here we make a first step in this direction by setting the basis for an analysis of (a class of) knowledge objects with which we highlight some interesting behaviour and dependences. The approach we follow is based on the ontological perspective and is driven by questions like: what is a knowledge object, what composes a knowledge object, how do knowledge objects change? These topics are complex for a variety of reasons and we make some simplifying assumptions by working in a standardized environment where the relationship between data and knowledge is fairly intuitive. Clearly, the general framework that we want to develop has to do justice of a series of elements (from activities to data, from physical entities to agents' role) that cannot be introduced in a single paper. We limit our presentation to just a few basic notions designed for a generic domain and take advantage of our guiding scenario to show how these can be exploited in specific contexts. The case study is given by the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVE), a veterinary public health institute that conducts laboratory controls and research activities in three main areas: animal health and welfare, food safety, and environmental protection. Ideally, the IZSVE receives samples of material with some accompanying information (date, owner, typology etc.) and decides to run analyses to establish properties of the material or to detect infectious agents. In our theoretical perspective, the IZSVE receives a complex object in the form of a pair (M,D) constituted by a piece of material (M) and relative data (D), and exercises its knowledge with the goal of extracting new data. The process relies in manipulations of M and of D causing a variety of changes in M (from reduction in size to biochemical alteration to complete destruction) while data D evolve. Calling (M',D') the material and relative information we have at the end of an activity, our aim is to understand and describe the relationship between (M,D) and (M',D') in the perspective of organization IZSVE. Thus, we view knowledge objects as triples (M,D,O), where O is an agent, e.g. IZSVE, a department or a technician, and focus on the relationship between the first two components in the perspective of the third.

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Contributo in atti di convegno
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Pozza, Giandomenico
Borgo, Stefano
Ravarotto, Licia
10th European Conference on Knowledge Management, pp. 635–641, 2009
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Stefano Borgo's picture
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